We’ve all seen the Vegas acts where hypnotists convince audience members to bark like dogs or think water tastes like vinegar, and while those shows are certainly entertaining, making other people laugh is not really what hypnosis is all about.
In fact, clinical hypnosis can be a very powerful tool that allows people to get help with major life issues and challenges. To find out more about what it is and how it works, we talked to Dr. Randy Gilchrist, a licensed clinical psychologist who offers a broad range of counseling services in the Sacramento, California area and who is also a highly-rated pro on Thumbtack. Read on to learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about being hypnotized.
What is Hypnotherapy?
Hypnotherapy is a technique of therapy that can be applied to a range of psychological issue and addictions. “I don’t consider it a therapy itself,” Dr. Gilchrist says. “Rather it’s a technique that promotes change and improvement through strengthening one’s motivation, focus, and commitment.”
What Can Hypnotherapy Be Used For?
“Hypnosis a helpful technique for anyone who wants to make a change in their life, but is having a hard time actually changing their behavior,” Dr. Gilchrist says. “The number one thing people come in for is weight loss, followed by people who want to quit smoking. But there are a range of issues, like addiction to drugs or alcohol, general anxiety, gambling problems, pain management, letting go of past resentment, performance anxiety, as well as fears, worries, and phobias.
What Happens During Hypnotherapy?
Dr. Gilchrist explains, “The way it works is that I ask the person to sit or lie down, close their eyes, pay attention, and listen to what I’m saying. The goal is for them to relax and focus, so I give them visuals to imagine, a relaxing place like the beach or a sunset, and help them slow their breathing down and relax their muscles. Induction usually takes about 8 to 10 minutes until they’re in a deep focused trance state.”
“We actually float in and out of a trance state all day,” Dr. Gilchrist explains. “Hypnosis is just tapping into that state. While people are in this state, I give them suggestions about how to change and improve and because they’re so relaxed and focused, they’re more open to and able to accept those suggestions. Their conscious resistance to change is lowered. These may be suggestions they’ve been given in regular therapy—things they know are a good idea, but it’s hard for them to accept because their own resistance gets in the way.”
doctorate and license in clinical psychology
How Do You Know What to Say During the Sessions?
“I have everyone fill out a questionnaire and email it to me before the session,” Dr. Gilchrist says. “They let me know what they want to work on and then I create a hypnosis outline of key points that I want to cover as I lead them through the session. Each session approaches the issue from a different angle.”
How Long Does Each Session Last?
“A good hypnosis session is around 25 to 30 minutes,” Dr. Gilchrist says. “Though depending on what people come in for, the session may also include another 25 to 30 minutes of counseling.”
How Many Sessions Does It Take?
“It can take anywhere from one to four sessions,” Dr. Gilchrist says. “There’s a learning curve when doing hypnosis, so people get better at it each time they come in.” However, it’s up to the person to do additional work at home between sessions. “I record the sessions,” he says. “Then they go home and listen and practice during the week. It’s best to do two sessions a week for two weeks because the sooner they have all four sessions, the sooner they can practice on their own.”
How Often Should I Listen at Home?
Dr. Gilchrist recommends listening to the recorded sessions one to three times a day at first. “If the person is busy, they can push play and listen before they go to sleep, but it’s better if they do it in the morning when they can close their eyes, focus, listen and not fall asleep. After a few weeks, they’ll maybe listen once a week or once a month.”
Does It Really Work?
“People have success if they practice,” Dr. Gilchrist says. “But I’ve also had someone who after the very first session never touched cigarettes again. His wife sent him in because she was threatening to leave him if he didn’t quit smoking. We assigned discomfort to smoking and gave him metaphors for a smoke-free lifestyle and he was able to quit right away.” Still, he adds, most people tend to wean down from smoking as the hypnotherapy works to associate pleasure with not smoking and then adding pain or discomfort to the act of smoking.
Who Should I Go to for Hypnotherapy?
“I see hypnosis as a technique of therapy,” Dr. Gilchrist says. “Unfortunately, there’s no set standard for a credential, but if you go to a graduate level psychotherapist, they have good training and know what they’re doing. It’s a powerful technique and issues may arise. And if someone doesn’t know what they’re doing, they may implant false memories and create additional anxiety.”
Dr. Randy Gilchrist is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in the Sacramento area. If you aren’t nearby, he offers personalized recorded hypnosis sessions. You can find him on his website and on Thumbtack.